THE sale of Halesowen Abbey has fallen through and the £3 million estate taken off the market by the owners who objected to it being turned into a commercial wedding venue.
But custodians of the 13th century monastic ruins fear the move will end hopes of greater public access to the site off Manor Way.
Dreams of the Halesowen Abbey Trust to turn the 242-acre estate into a major tourist attraction had already been thwarted earlier this year when an offer on the Victorian farmhouse and barns, including the abbey, was accepted before it could raise the funds.
However, despite having to scrap its bid for heritage lottery funding, the trust believed all was not lost as the prospective new owners - an unnamed Black Country couple - vowed to allow more public access.
Completion of the sale to the couple, described as “wealthy business people”, was delayed following the death of owner Chris Tudor, aged 60, after a five-year battle with cancer early this year.
This is understood to have caused them difficulties in holding onto a mortgage offer for the £1.3 million purchase, which excluded a cottage and more than 200 acres of farm land which made up the estate.
Mr Tudor’s son Stephen said: “They could not raise the funds. Also, they wanted to turn it into a wedding venue and the family was not happy about it becoming a commercial enterprise.
“My dad spent a lot of time renovating the house and the family was not happy about some of the plans - like putting a big glass front on the barns.”
The family has decided to stay put and Mr Tudor said were likely to press ahead with their own plans, already approved, to convert the barns into six dwellings and a small visitor centre in about a year.
Conditions of the planning permission include the creation of a public right of way from Manor Way, vehicle access with a cattle grid at the entrance to the A456, and a visitors’ car park.
But trust secretary Mick Freer fears a residential development would be “in conflict” with encouraging more visitors to view the abbey, which is in the guardianship of English Heritage and, as a Scheduled Monument, has the same historic importance as Stone Henge.
He said: “I don’t see what was wrong with the moderate commercial enterprise that was proposed. They were going to make it a public venue with features such as a cafe which would have been wonderful. Nothing would have been allowed that would have been out of keeping with the historic buildings.”